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Thursday, April 29, 2004  
In lieu of actual content, we bring you the following cheap shot, courtesy of the Onion:
Bush To Iraqi Militants: 'Please Stop Bringing It On'
WASHINGTON, DC—In an internationally televised statement Monday, President Bush modified a July 2003 challenge to Iraqi militants attacking U.S. forces. "Terrorists, Saddam loyalists, and anti-American insurgents: Please stop bringing it on now," Bush said at a Monday press conference. "Nine months and 500 U.S. casualties ago, I may have invited y'all to bring it on, but as of today, I formally rescind that statement. I would officially like for you to step back." The president added that the "it" Iraqis should stop bringing includes gunfire, bombings, grenade attacks, and suicide missions of all types.


Wednesday, April 28, 2004  
[Post removed.]
More soon.


Thursday, April 22, 2004  
Gone Jazzfestin'. I'll be back when I'm back.

Ahh, who am I kidding. I'll be back Tuesday.


Thursday, April 15, 2004  
Some welcome good news from Iraq. Moqtada al-Sadr has recognized the utter futility of his position, and has sent out envoys to sue for peace. This is great news. He essentially seems to be seeking permission to stand down and avert a confrontation with the U.S. forces. He has even hinted at a willingness to disband the Mahdi Militia he controls. What can I say? Take the deal!

Also, the three Japanese hostages, threatened with a horrific death by fire if Japan did not withdraw its troops, have been released. This is also great news. If they had gone through with it, actually burned these people to death, the U.S. might well have been really, truly alone over there, as the offices of NGO's and aid groups emptied overnight. I must say, I was more worried about this than about any other aspect of the recent acceleration of the pace of violence and death in Iraq. The deaths of the soldiers and civilians caused by the insurgency so far have been tragic enough, but I really do believe that burning these hostages to death would have been a kind of watershed horror, a Rubicon of depravity it would be hard for the insurgents, or us, to uncross.

Links via Normblog.


Mr. Chalabi, please exit the building by 4:00. You may pick up your last check at HR on the way out. During his Tuesday piano recital press conference, President Bush made a clear statement that the decision of whom to turn power over to on June 30th was no longer his to make:
Q: Mr. President, who will you be handing the Iraqi government over to on June 30th?

THE PRESIDENT: We will find that out soon. That's what Mr. Brahimi is doing; he's figuring out the nature of the entity we'll be handing sovereignty over.

And, Mr. Brahimi has apparently "figured it out":
The United Nations envoy to Iraq, Lakhdar Brahimi, laid out a blueprint for Iraq's transition to sovereignty yesterday, proposing a caretaker government to shepherd the country to free elections by the end of January 2005.

Under the proposal, the US-appointed Governing Council would be dissolved when the United States hands over power June 30, rather than expanded to form an assembly as called for in an earlier proposal US administrators promoted.

Also interesting is that he called for the council to be replaced by citizens that Iraqis found to be competent, credible and honest. Clearly, if he believed the IGC already was those things, there would be no need for a replacement.


Wednesday, April 14, 2004  
The Confusion arrived today, and I am preparing to head back into the Stephensonian past that never was. An already full weekend just got more fuller.
Over to you, Moe.


Tuesday, April 13, 2004  
No politics. Nice links found on Tacitus today:
First comes this amazing and headcrackingly spooky motorcycle ride through the abandoned city of Chernobyl. In the comments to the Chernobyl post, comes a reference to this site of "Abandoned Places." My favorite was the French insane asylum. And finally, the joys of cultural dissonance, in a site that is so made for the chef, I'm surprised he did not make it himself. American comic strips recaptioned by Japanese schoolchildren in their English class. My favorite example is here.


Sunday, April 11, 2004  
Drat. I just noticed that nascent liberal yakfountain Air America has a show named "Unfiltered." I am concerned that this new entry may tend to dilute the massive strength of the Short Hope Unfiltered brand a bit. I was here first, goddammit! Check the archives to the left - unrelieved intellectual onanism since May of '02! (Well, since 1998, really. Amazingly, GeoCities has not seen fit to delete my short-lived ur-blog Preaching to the Choir Invisible yet.)

Haven't had an opportunity to actually listen to Air America yet, as they haven't got a DC station. Well, maybe if I break down and get XMRadio.


Not much to add to this excellent question from Jesse at Pandagon:
So, I suppose the question here is - you excuse the 8/6 letter because it's a "historical document", which implies that there was no rationale for attacking al-Qaeda in the summary restatement of its previous activities...yet we invaded Iraq, declaring that it constituted a threat premised on what amounted to a summary restatement of its previous activities. Why was it an excuse not to act the first time, but an explicit excuse to act the second time?

Now, I guess one predictable answer is that everything changed after 9/11, the need for preemption came into sharper focus, etc., etc. But, considering that the Bush defense seems to be that 9/11 didn't teach them anything, that they were already focused on terrorism and al Qaeda, thanks very much, then seriously, what's the difference?


Thursday, April 08, 2004  
Reductio ad absurdum. This is a cheap shot, but I really don't care. The situation of the U.S. in Iraq, and the status of the U.S. efforts to combat terrorism, are very complicated. Some of it was complicated before we got here; some of it has become more complicated because of what we have done; some of the complications are the fault of others, be they evil or simply irresponsible. Iraq teeters between multiple outcomes - civil interfaith war? An ecumenical alliance of Shiite and Sunni muslims against the U.S. forces? A gradual assertion of nonviolent control over the violent minority by the Shiite majority which does not want their primary chance at taking power in Iraq to be spoiled by premature strikes against an enemy they can't defeat? A settlement of this spasm of true insurgency and a continuation of the guerrilla war, including use of new tactics by the rebels?

Similarly, there are innumerable other factors outstanding in the war against al Qaeda: the gradual loss of Afghanistan outside the precincts of Kabul; the rise of (likely) al Qaeda activity in Europe; the abject poverty of most Arabs and the hard-shelled resistance of their autocratic and (in some cases) ludicrously wealthy leaders to acknowledge any culpability or need for change; the slide of once-moderate Islamic states towards underlying popular fundamentalism; repressive secular governments wielding authoritarian control over countries with 94% Islamic majorities; and many, many other causes, effects, and complications surrounding the "War on Terror."

On the topic of causation, the underlying facts of the matter, Bill Clinton, spoke last year in Qatar about the mutual illusons that the Arab and Western world hold about each other, and how reinforcement of these delusions, in an interdependent world, can produce sustained friction and misunderstanding[abridged]:
The defining feature of the modern world is not terror, nor is it trade nor technology, although terror, trade, and technology are manifestations of the defining feature of the modern world, which is its interdependence--a word I far prefer to "globalization," the more common word, because for most people globalization has a largely economic meaning. "Interdependence" is a broader word. It simply means we cannot escape each other. And our relationships go far beyond economics.

The main point I would like to make about the interdependent world that applies to the relationships between the United States and the Islamic world is that the interdependence we enjoy has been of great benefit to some of us, but it is unequal, unstable, and unsustainable.

So this is a paradoxical world we live in. We cannot understand U.S.-Islamic relationships unless we understand the sweeping scope of the interdependent world, its enormous benefits and its persistent inequalities and instabilities. Because it isn't fair to say that every single element of our relationship, good and bad, is just a function of who happens to be in power or what the political issue of the day is. You have to see it against the large backdrop of this moment in history.

Striving to understand how each other views the world requires at least knowing that our attitudes toward one another are born of history, faith, circumstance, national interest, and collective psychology as well. Too many Americans know too little about the Islamic world, and much of what they know they learned after September the 11th through the narrow lens of terror. It is important but not sufficient, because what people do out of anger, pain, and fear both darkens and distorts reality. [On the other hand,] People in the Islamic world should not look at America solely through the prism of the current state of the Middle East peace talks.

For a somewhat different perspective, the current president offers this explanation for the current situation:
We've got tough work there because, you see, there are terrorists there who would rather kill innocent people than allow for the advance of freedom. That's what you're seeing going on. These people hate freedom. and we love freedom. And that's where the clash occurs.

This is the President, folks. Of the United States. This is his definition of leadership: reduce a vast set of interrelated international circumstances, which encompass real fighting, real violence, real death, and reduce it to a sing-song homily that you would use to explain a murder to an eight year old. "A bad man took mommy away, but we're going to find the bad man, and put him in jail forever." Absolutely fucking pathetic.

Speaking of pathetic, that certainly describes John Kerry's response to the worsening situation in Iraq. Kerry needs to explain, in specific terms, exactly what he will do to address the Iraq situation if he's elected, and I'm not talking about pabulum like "broadest possible coalition" and all that. He's afraid, like Jimmy Carter, to tip his hand and expose himself to political crossfire if the situation changes? Tough shit, buddy. You want to run the country, you have a responsibility to tell us what you wants to do with that open sore of an entanglement. And yes, I've read this. It spends several dozen paragraphs slamming Bush, and two paragraphs talking about how Kerry will handle Iraq, which can be summed up as "We're not leaving, but we are handing over political control to the UN and military control to an Iraqi Security Force to be named later."


Tuesday, April 06, 2004  
Eureka! It worked. Only lost two posts, so not so bad. Oh, and by the way, jew.


This is only a test.The site hasn't updated in a couple of days, and I think Blogger has eaten some posts, so I'm trying something with this post that will hopefully break the logjam. So, disregard this post. Except for this, of course: Jew, Jew, Jew, Jew, Jew, Jew, Jew. Purpose of the Googlebomb explained here. Definition of a "Googlebomb" is here.


Monday, April 05, 2004  
Slate throws two punches. One right, one left. Two articles in Slate that are bound to kick up some dust on the blogs today. First is this very harsh assessment of Max Cleland, the former Senator from Georgia who was beaten by Saxby Chambliss in 2002, in part because of an ad that used images of Saddam Hussein and Osama bin Laden to portray Cleland's vote against Bush's Homeland Security act as the act of a craven appeaser, beholden to Big Labor and unwilling to take a political risk in order to protect the nation's security. The ad was horrible and misleading. (Clearly, Bush was willing to risk the bill in order to take a swipe at Labor, a primary nemesis of many of his biggest campaign supporters; it is unclear why a willingness to risk the bill to protect Labor is so cowardly. But that's the power of the bully pulpit, I suppose.) The article is a vicious spin job:
Cleland's image as Bush's ultimate victim suits Kerry's campaign all too well. There are no bold new ideas in the Democratic Party today, no coherent policy themes. Even Kerry's supporters are hard-pressed to explain what he stands for. What does define and unify the party is a sense of victimhood—and a lust for revenge. Cleland is compelling not because of anything he's done—he was a mediocre senator and a clumsy candidate—but because of what was done to him.

However, stripped of its contempt, the article makes a fair point regarding the current state of the democrats - instead of seeking symbols, and then relying upon them ad nauseum until they have lost all potency, Kerry is going to have to get in front of some national debates on the overall fiscal and political philosophy of government. It may be true that Kerry will only win if the country continues its slide, but hoping for failure is an absolutely morally bankrupt campaign strategy. Kerry can make a good faith case that even if Iraq is stable for a couple of months and jobs continue to perk, the invasion and the tax cuts were done so recklessly that they have caused systemic damage, regardless of short-term indicators. He needs to do this, because otherwise the White House spin will cut him in half with any shred of good news, and put him on the wrong side of any bad news.

And, secondarily, some good red meat from William Saletan. After noting that many of the flip-flop charges Bush is now making at Kerry were levelled first by Howard Dean, Saletan attempts to diagnose the source of this apparent Democratic malady: trusting George Bush.
What's with all the weak backbones? Is it a Democratic establishment disease? No, that can't be it. John DiIulio has the same problem. He's the guy the White House recruited to run the "faith-based and community initiatives" Bush promised in 2000. DiIulio quit in August 2001. A year later, he faulted the administration for caring more about politics than policy. "In eight months, I heard many, many staff discussions, but not three meaningful, substantive policy discussions," he recalled. The result was "a virtual absence as yet of any policy accomplishments that might, to a fair-minded nonpartisan, count as the flesh on the bones of so-called compassionate conservatism." In short, DiIulio felt conned. How did the White House respond? According to Newsweek, "Officials cast aspersions on … DiIulio's truthfulness." DiIulio had a credibility problem: He had helped the administration but now criticized it. He was a flip-flopper.

Then came Paul O'Neill. He was fired as Bush's Treasury secretary in 2002 after opposing the administration's third package of budget-busting tax cuts. In Ron Suskind's The Price of Loyalty, O'Neill described his dismay as an administration he had expected to practice sound economics indulged instead in political protectionism and runaway deficits. He felt conned. How did the White House respond? Bush noted that O'Neill had "worked together" with him for two years on economic policy. Meanwhile, Bush's spokesman shrugged that the disgruntled ex-secretary was retroactively "trying to justify personal views." O'Neill had a credibility problem: He had helped the administration but now criticized it. He was a flip-flopper.

Now comes Richard Clarke. He decided to leave his post as U.S. counterterrorism coordinator three months before 9/11 because the White House, despite assurances to the contrary, wasn't treating al-Qaida as an urgent threat. In a book and in public testimony last week, he said so. He felt conned. How did the White House respond? It outed Clarke for having defended Bush's counterterrorism policies, as instructed, in a 2002 briefing that the White House had declared off the record at the time. Bush's national security adviser asked reporters "which of [Clarke's] stories is he going to stand by," since "he's got a record of having said something very different." Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, R-Tenn., noting that Clarke had praised Bush in congressional testimony when he still worked for the administration, charged that Clarke had "told two entirely different stories under oath." In the words of Bush's spokesman, Clarke had a "credibility problem." He had helped the administration but now criticized it. He was a flip-flopper.

What do all these flip-floppers have in common? Not subject matter: DiIulio worked on social policy, O'Neill on economics, Clarke on national security. Not party: Kerry, Edwards, and Gephardt are Democrats; O'Neill is a Republican; Clarke worked for President Reagan and both Bushes as well as for President Clinton. The only thing they have in common is that they all cooperated with this administration before deciding they'd been conned. Flip-flopping, it turns out, is the final stage of trusting George W. Bush.

That's how Kerry, Edwards, and Gephardt got whiplash. They supported tax cuts in 2001 when Bush challenged them to give back some of the surplus. Then the surplus vanished, Bush demanded more tax cuts, and they decided they'd been conned. They supported Bush's "No Child Left Behind" education bill in 2001. Then the administration withheld money for it, and they decided they'd been conned. They supported the Patriot Act after 9/11 when Bush urged them to trust law enforcement. Then the Justice Department took liberties with its new powers, and they decided they'd been conned. They voted for a resolution authorizing the use of force in Iraq after the administration promised to use the resolution as leverage toward U.N. action, reserving unilateral war as a last resort. Then Bush ditched the United Nations and went to war, and they decided they'd been conned.

When the administration offered them a supposedly $400 billion Medicare bill stuffed with goodies for health insurers and drug companies, they said no. But lots of fiscally conservative House Republicans said yes. Now, thanks to yet another flip-flopping Bush administration whistleblower, those Republicans have discovered that the real bill, concealed by the White House, will be $150 billion higher than advertised. You don't have to be a Democrat to feel conned.

Once you vote with Bush, serve in his cabinet, or spin for him in a classified briefing, you're trapped. If you change your mind, he'll dredge up your friendly vote or testimony and use it to discredit you. That's what he's doing now to all the politicians at home and abroad who fell for his exaggerations about Iraqi weapons of mass destruction. "In Iraq, my administration looked at the intelligence information, and we saw a threat," he tells audiences. "Members of Congress looked at the intelligence information, and they saw a threat. The United Nations Security Council looked at the intelligence information, and it saw a threat." It's too late to admit that Bush is wrong and that you were fooled. You're on record agreeing with him. He doesn't even look dishonest when he rebukes you, because, unlike the people who run his administration's scams, he can't tell the difference between what he promised and what he delivered.

Amen! Off the air for a while. Be back as soon as I can. Meantime, read the chef.


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